Canadian Design and Construction

Plumbing 101: Glossary of Terms

As a Property Manager, there is little more stressful than a plumbing emergency in your condo building. When you’re faced with this kind of situation, it’s helpful to have knowledge of the problem at hand.  Our handy glossary of plumbing terms will have you speaking our language.

Adaptor: Used in piping systems to connect straight sections of pipe or tube or dissimilar piping methods (ie. sweat copper to threaded fittings). Also used to regulate or measure fluid flow.

Annealing: A process that uses an oxygen-acetylene torch to heat a material to a certain temperature before cooling off. Used to reduce a material’s hardness and increase its pliability. Applied to copper in plumbing applications.

-B-

Back-flow: A process when cross-connections enable unwanted water to flow in the opposite direction, usually through siphoning. This can lead to potential health risks if potable water becomes contaminated with foul water.

Back-flow Prevention: Devices implemented by building owners to prevent backflow; often mandated in building codes.

-C-

Cleanout: A convenient place in a building’s drainage lines that can be accessed by drain clearing equipment if there’s a backup. Covered with an aesthetically pleasing cleanout cover.

Coupling: A short piece of pipe or tube used to connect two pipes or tubes together. Also known as a coupler.

-D-

Drain Cleaning: A service that uses heat-generating chemicals to unblock clogged sewer pipes or wastewater drains. Also known as stack cleaning.

Drain Tile System: A pipe system comprised of perforations in corrugated plastic, PVC or clay tile that directs subsoil drainage to a sewer or water retention area. Helps control water and prevent wet basements.

-E-

Escutcheon – A decorative plate used to seal the wall opening around a faucet handle. Covers the faucet stem in sink faucets and mixing valve in showers.

Epoxy Pipe Lining – An epoxy resin lining used inside older pipes to seal off pinholes and corrosion. A more economical option used to replace an old piping system rather than install a new system.

-F-

Faucet: A water flow controlling device commonly used in kitchens and washrooms. Also known as a “tap” or “spigot”.

Flux (Plumbing) – A type of paste used in plumbing to remove oxides and other coatings when joining copper or brass pipe and fittings during a process known as “sweating.”

-G-

Gate Valve – A device that’s regularly operated by a wheel handle to control liquid flow within a pipe. Commonly used when minimum pressure loss and a free bore is required. Not intended to throttle or regulate water flow.

Gray Water: Wastewater generated from non-fecal contaminated streams including sinks, showers and washing machines. Unsafe to drink but can be treated and reused onsite for landscaping, washing or toilet flushing. Reduces the demand for public water supply.

-H-

Hard Water – A freshwater supply that contains a high mineral content (predominately calcium and magnesium). Indicated by spotting on dishware, scale build-up on showerheads and rings around the bathtub. Does not pose a health hazard but can shorten the lifetime of fixtures and appliances and alter effectiveness of cleaners. Can be corrected with an ion-exchange based water softener.

Hydraulic Pressure – The force produced when liquid is forced against an object; caused by liquid’s existing property called compressibility. Hydraulic fluid appears milky and certain elements in the hydraulic system become unstable.

-I-

Instantaneous Water Heater – A type of water heater that uses a heat exchanger coil to heat water. “Point of use water heaters” service specific plumbing fixtures and “tankless water heaters” normally serve multiple locations in a building due to their high capacity heater.

Isolation Valves – A type of valve on a potable water system used to stop water supply in a specific location for maintenance or safety reasons. Avoids causing disruption to the entire building’s water supply.

-J-

J-Hooks – A type of hook that resembles the letter “J constructed of plastic, steel or copper that’s typically used in plumbing to hang waster, vent and water piping. Available in different sizes and used vertically or horizontally to secure pipes at different grades.

-K-

Kitec Plumbing: A brand of plumbing pipe commonly used for water supply lines and radiant hot water heating in homes and condos built between 1995 and 2007.

Kitchen Sink Faucet with a Pull-Out Spray: A type of faucet for kitchen sinks that features a spray mechanism that extends from the spout. Either a hard spray or aerated flow occurs when a button is depressed on the spray head.

-L-

Liquid Waste – Liquid released from a plumbing fixture into a sewage system or septic tank that is not contaminated with human or animal waste. Can include wastewater, fats, oils or hazardous household liquids.

Lead – A natural, soft, heavy metal that is known for its durability and malleability. Commonly used until the 1980s in faucets, flush valves, hose bibbs, etc. until its ability to leach poison into the water supply was realized.

-M-

Main Line – A dominant water line that provides water from the meter at the street up to the area where it enters the building. Additional supply lines in the building extend from this line.

Manifold – A plumbing system’s control hub that distributes hot and cold water to PEX distribution lines throughout a building.

Mixing Valve Maintenance: Preventative work completed on a thermostatic mixing valve (TMV) to ensure scalding in hot water temperatures do not happen. Also delivers a consistent water temperature, providing user comfort.

-N-

Nipple – A short section of threaded pipe that’s used to connect two couplings or fittings.

No Hub Soil Pipe – A type of cast iron pipe that lacks a hub or socket, joined with no hub couplings.

-O-

Oakum – Tarred fibre used to seal gaps and joints in cast iron plumbing pipes.

Open Site Drain – A type of drainage piping that connects a plumbing fixture or appliance into an isolated waste pipe or container. Other than featuring an overflow rim that ends above the floor, similar to floor drains.

-P-

PEX Plastic Water Piping and Fittings – A type of polyethylene (PEX) with cross-links used in domestic water piping. Kitec is a popular manufacturer.

Pinhole Leaks: Tiny leaks due to corrosion caused by the accumulation of steel particles inside copper hot water pipes.

-R-

Re-piping/Retrofitting: A process used to upgrade domestic waterlines to create better water efficiency. Could involve a complete replacement or adaptations to plumbing fixtures. Toilets, showerheads and faucets are typically targeted.

Risk Assessment Program: A formal process used to identify, evaluate and control hazards associated with a building’s water systems. Implemented to recognize and prevent potentially life-threatening water contamination risks such as bacteria and chemical corrosion.

Riser – A vertical supply line made of metal or plastic that joins a faucet or shower fixture to a water supply stop valve. A term also used to describe a water supply line in tall buildings where excessive water pressure is needed.

-S-

Sewage – The combination of excrement collected from a condo building and wastewater from stormwater and ground surface. Transported in sewers.

Stack – A vertical pipe that connects fixtures and waste lines. The top of each stack is vented with a stack pipe (or “stink pipe”).

Sump Pump – A type of pump used to remove water from a low-lying, dug sump pit and transport it away from the property. Used in areas prone to flooding, typically basements and crawl spaces.

-T-

Thermostatic Mixing Valve (TMV) – A pressure-balancing shower mixing valve that safely combines hot water with cold water in showers and baths. Typically uses a wax thermostat to regulate temperature and automatically turn off when necessary to prevent scalding or thermal shock.

Trap – A curved-shaped device in plumbing drains and sewers that prevents toxic sewer gases from re-entering the building. When a plumbing fixture is used, leftover water is retained in the trap that creates an air seal. Every plumbing fixture must have either an internal or external trap.

-U-

Union – A three-piece fitting designed to join two pipes that allows them to be disconnected without causing any pipe damage. Normally used with steel pipe.

-V-

Vent – A vertical pipe that regulates a plumbing system’s air pressure. Removes gas and odours while allowing air into the drain system. Also known as a plumbing air vent or vent stack.

Velocity – A calculation of how fast water moves through piping measured in feet per second.

-W-

Water Hammer – A loud, obtrusive sound from plumbing pipes created when the water is suddenly turned on or off. A serious issue that can lead to pipe collapse, but can be cured with a water hammer arrestor. Also known as hydraulic shock.

Water Conservation Audit – A comprehensive, on-site survey conducted by a trained water conservation auditor that provides an analysis of current water usage and water conservation measures. Can lead to better energy efficiency, environmental sustainability and energy savings.

CDC understands the unique needs of the condominium environment, and this knowledge helps us to provide excellent service to the condo sector. Whether it’s for a Kitec Plumbing Replacement or to fix a leaky pipe, call our experts today at 905-615-1111 to address your round-the-clock plumbing needs. Or, visit our websites at –www.cdcpro.ca and www.cdckitec.com

By Sarah McKenzie

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